What is Adult Cystic Fibrosis?

Adult cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting mature people born with the disorder. Improved medical treatment for the disease increased the lifespan of children with cystic fibrosis, prompting medical experts to address the special needs of those with adult cystic fibrosis. Diabetes and osteoporosis are two complications of the disease that might appear in adults. Reproductive issues can also be addressed in adult cystic fibrosis patients.

Men with the disorder are born without tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. Medical procedures are possible that remove sperm from a man with adult cystic fibrosis and fertilize a woman’s egg in a test tube. Women with adult cystic fibrosis might have trouble conceiving because of thick mucus that blocks the cervix. Medication to thin the mucus and surgical procedures to implant a fertilized egg may enable a woman to successfully carry a child and give birth.

Two other side effects might appear in those with adult cystic fibrosis. Clubbing, which causes the fingers and toes to widen and appear rounded, may appear late in life. A lifelong lack of oxygen to the extremities produces clubbing in some adults. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass that makes bones brittle and prone to fractures. Medication might strengthen bones in some patients.

Cystic fibrosis impedes respiration when lungs fill with sticky mucus, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive in. This thick mucus might also provoke sinus infections and clog tubes that carry an important enzyme to the pancreas to help the body absorb protein and fats. The blockage might cause diarrhea or constipation, or a blockage in the intestine. In adults, the pancreas might become inflamed and cause abdominal pain.

Most people with adult cystic fibrosis live normally while controlling symptoms. They typically use blows to the chest and back to loosen mucus in the lungs so it can be coughed up. Medical devices can also be employed that use vibrations to break up phlegm. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs address signs of infection and swelling in the airways. Some adults with the disease take vitamin supplements to help the intestines absorb fat. A healthy diet and exercise may ward off constipation.

Cystic fibrosis is diagnosed through genetic tests that identify a defective gene. A blood test can measure the condition of the pancreas as an alternative diagnostic tool. The best way to confirm the disease is through a sweat test, because the disorder disrupts glands that secrete sweat by producing extra salt.


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